The Top 7 Ways Fit People Injure Themselves at the Gym

YouTube is full of gym fails; think exercisers falling off treadmillsmisusing strength machines, and wearing wildly inappropriate clothing. But most workout mistakes are a little less...obvious—and they aren't made only by people who are totally clueless about working out. Your friend who runs 20 miles a week or the woman you always see at the weight rack can be just as prone to errors that lead to injury as a gym newbie. Here, physical therapists reveal the seven most common ways their patients—even the super-fit ones—hurt themselves while working out. 

They don't bother to warm up

It's tempting to skimp on a warm-up when you're time-crunched and want to maximize your precious gym minutes. Bad move: “The worst thing you can do is start cranking out the weights without getting your muscles ready,” says Karen Joubert, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based physical therapist. That’s especially true when you work out after a day at the office, when your muscles are tight from eight hours of sitting. 

Get your body ready for action with a dynamic warm-up. David Reavy, a Chicago-based physical therapist, gave us one of his favorite moves: Get into a lunge position, then fold your body forward to touch your toes. This lengthens the hip flexor in your back leg and engages the posterior chain (a group of muscles in the back of your body). (Check out six more dynamic stretches to prep you for any workout.) 

They work themselves too hard

You just hit a back squat PR—and immediately add two more plates to the barbell to try to max it out even more. “We think if we lift heavier weights and push ourselves harder, we’re going to see quicker results,” says Joubert. “But really we’re going to see quicker injuries.” Her advice: “Play smarter, not harder.”

But how do you know when the time is right to take it to the next level? Wait until workouts start to feel too easy, says Reavy, and then focus on moving up gradually. If you’re running 3 miles at an 8 minute pace, for example, either up your distance by a mile or two at the same speed, or run faster for the same distance. The same goes for weight training; either bump up reps or pounds. “You have to give your body time to adapt to a new challenge,” Reavy says. 

RELATED: Jillian Michaels' Total-Body Blasting Workout

They let their form break

Can't eke out one more deadlift without rounding your lower back, or one more squat without leaning forward? Best to either lighten your load, or even call it quits for the day—lifting with poor form opens you up to injury, says Reavy. When you're lifting weights, remember to keep your spine straight and weight in your heels, and if you're unsure whether you're keeping correct form, enlist the help of a trainer. 

They push past the pain

Is it muscle soreness or something more serious? Here's a rule of thumb: Soreness may linger a day or two before going away, but pain persists, says Joubert. Soreness also tends to be relieved by stretching and movement, while an injury will actually get worse. And if you get a pain that is sharp and shooting, then you know you’re causing some damage, says Reavy. “Or any pain that travels, like something that starts in your leg and moves up.”

That said, muscle soreness could be a bad sign as well, especially if you notice it in one leg and not the other, says Reavy. This could be a sign you’re compensating on one side for an injury on the other.

While you may be tempted to really push yourself to reach results, the key is to check in with your body and take a breather if something feels off, says Joubert. The bottom line: working through the pain doesn’t make you stronger; it makes you injured. 

They don’t take a recovery day

In the same way it’s important to take a break when your body is hurting, it’s also crucial to give yourself some regular R&R. While skipping a workout or taking a day off may seem counterproductive to your goals, “It’s actually just as important, because you won’t see changes if you don’t give yourself a break,” says Joubert. “If you push your body in that gym every day, what happens is it starts to tear down, because you’re not giving the muscle cells time to rebuild and grow.” She recommends focusing on adequate hydration, getting plenty of electrolytes along with clean foods, and resting.

That said, a recovery day doesn’t need to be a lazy day. Reavy actually likes to have what he calls “mobility days,” which involves a combination of activation exercises, muscle releases, and mobilization workouts. To activate his muscles, he revisits his go-to functional warm-up. Then, he releases tension in various parts of his body using a foam roller. Finally, he gets to the main event, mobility training, mainly focusing on his hips and pelvis. Here are two of his favorites that you can try out for yourself:

Ilium Mobilization Against Wall: Place the back of your hip against a wall so that the back hipbone is firmly pressed into the wall. Keeping your spine neutral, bend forward as far as you can only at the hip, while maintaining the firm pressure of the back hipbone into the wall. Return to the starting position. Repeat.

SI Mobilization Backbend: Place one foot behind you with the heel slightly raised. Reach back with the arm of the same side and place a fist on the center of your sacrum. Lean back as far as you can so that your spine is extended. This is the starting position. Rotate your upper body to the side you are mobilizing, and return to the starting position. Repeat on both sides.

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They don’t cross-train

As obsessed with SoulCycle as you may be, doing one workout—and only one workout—will backfire eventually. “If you’re doing the same thing over and over again, even you’re using your body properly, you’re strengthening the same muscles over and over again which can lead to tightness,” says Reavy. You might also wind up with an overuse injury, like tendonitis or shin splints, Joubert says.

As an alternative, they both strongly suggest cross training. And when choosing your mix of exercises, just be sure you keep them balanced. “Your body needs to lengthen and shorten its muscles,” Reavy says. “So if you’re often lifting heavy weights (shortening), go take a yoga or Pilates class (lengthening) as a counterbalance.”

Cross training is really a win-win, says Joubert: You’ll see better results, and your body won’t get burned out by doing the same thing constantly.

They wear the wrong shoes

Different shoes are best for different kinds of workouts. Running shoes are designed with flexible fabrics and for straight-line motion, so wearing them to, say, a boxing class that requires side-to-side bounding sets you up for a rolled ankle. Invest in a set of cross-training shoes—your body will thank you. 

Fitness Star Anna Victoria Shares Photo of Her Belly Rolls: ‘How I Am 99% of the Time’

Anna Victoria, the insanely popular Instagram star and fitness blogger behind Fit Body Guides, has shared two side-by-side photos to remind us that yep, everyone gets stomach rolls. In the first snap, she's standing up, turned partially to one side, with her famous abs looking perfectly toned. In the second photo, taken on Snapchat, she’s sitting down, relaxed; the text on the photo reads “+ a normal angle [jazz hands emoji] how I am 99% of the time.”

RELATED: 5 Inspiring FItness Influencers to Follow on Instagram

The body-positive post quickly went viral, racking up more than 200,000 likes in 24 hours. And it's not the first time Victoria has shared photos of herself at “unflattering” angles. Her goal: to illustrate that much of what we see from the fitness community on social media is what people look like just a small fraction of the time, when they’re posing in the best possible lighting.

In yesterday's post, Victoria wrote that she loves both of the selfies, and went on to explain why she appreciates her whole body, "flaws" and all: "I have cellulite and stretch marks that aren't going away, and I welcome them. They represent a life fully lived (for 28 years so far :)) and a healthy life and body at that. How can I be mad at my body for perfectly normal 'flaws'?”

She also took the opportunity to drive home the point that good health is about so much more than good angles: “This body is strong, can run miles, can lift and squat and push and pull weight around, and it's happy not just because of how it looks, but because of how it feels,” she wrote.

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Victoria ended her caption with an inspiring mantra that she hopes her followers will remember on their own personal fitness journeys: “I will not punish my body. I will fuel it. I will challenge it. AND I will love it.” That's worth saying again, and again.

 

A Surprisingly Small Amount of Exercise Can Fight Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is nasty stuff: It’s considered a contributing factor to diseases from arthritis to cancer, as well as long-term health conditions like obesity. Regular exercise has been shown to curb inflammation in the body, but it hasn’t always been clear exactly how it helps—or how much activity you need to reap the benefits.

Now, new research suggests that your workouts don’t have to be that long, or that hard, to produce real results: Just 20 minutes of brisk walking produced an anti-inflammatory response in immune cells of study participants, supporting the idea that every workout truly does count.

"Each time we exercise, it seems that we are doing something good for our body at the cellular level," says senior author Suzi Hong, PhD, associate director of the Integrative Health and Mind-Body Biomarker Lab at the University of California San Diego.

The study involved 47 adults, who were asked to walk on a treadmill at a pace that felt moderately hard to them. (Think faster breathing and light sweating.) They provided blood samples before and immediately after the exercise, so researchers could measure proteins associated with whole-body inflammation.

RELATED: 14 Foods That Fight Inflammation

The “after” samples showed about a 5% decrease in a protein called TNF, which is produced by immune cells. Hong says this is a “clear and significant sign that the immune cells are suppressing the inflammatory markers,” which may provide health benefits both in the short term and, when exercise is repeated regularly, the long term as well.

The research also shed light on how exactly this process happens, says Hong. It seems that stress hormones released during moderate exercise may trigger receptors in the body’s immune cells. The results were published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

"The message here is that exercise doesn't have to be really intense to have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Hong. That’s especially important for people who might be intimidated by the idea of working out, or frustrated by a lack of noticeable results, she adds—including those who are overweight or have a chronic inflammatory disease. “Even before you see weight coming off, there's evidence that you're fighting inflammatory activation in your body,” she says.

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The study did not compare treadmill walking to different types (or different intensities) of exercise, so it’s uncertain whether harder or easier workouts would produce similar results.

It’s also not entirely clear how much these cellular changes really affect healthy people without elevated inflammation. But it’s likely that everyone can benefit, says Hong, since exercise-triggered immune responses can make the body more efficient at regulating inflammation in the long run.

Hong cautions that people with chronic illnesses should always talk with their doctors before starting a new exercise plan, and shouldn’t expect exercise alone to cure their problems. But she hopes her research will provide this group with new motivation to add moderate physical activity to their routine.

“Everyone knows that exercise is good for them,” says Hong. “But maybe making it a little more specific—saying that each time you exercise can have a real anti-inflammatory benefit—will help people accept it a little more clearly.”  

This is How Fast The Average Woman Runs A Mile

Whether you're a running newbie or an avid pavement pounder, you've likely considered your running pace an important mark of improvement. And if you've ever wondered how your mile time compares to other runners' times, there's now a solid statistic you can cite.

Workout tracking app Strava has released its list of end of year insights, which includes average run statistics like distance, elevation, moving time, most popular day, and pace, using data from the 86.7 million runs logged globally on the app in 2016. The average pace for a woman came in at 9 minutes and 55 second per mile. Other averages included a moving time of 49 minutes and a distance of 4.6 miles. 

If you want to get faster and improve your average pace in 2017, there are plenty of ways to reach your goal. First, you could try this speed workout: Spend 15 minutes warming up by walking for 5 minutes and lightly jogging for about 10 minutes. Run for 2 minutes at a pace just short of a sprint, and then jog for 2 minutes. Repeat the sequence four times, and then cool down for about 15 minutes. You'll also improve your pace by doing these strength exercises for runners

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If you're looking to get your run on the fun way, follow along with our Mile High Run Club interval running video. It makes training indoors much more enjoyable.

Sprain or Strain? Here's How to Tell the Difference

Sprains and strains sound similar, but they involve different types of soft tissues and parts of the body. A sprain is when you overstretch or tear a ligament, the band of tissue that connects two bones and stabilizes a joint. A strain, on the other hand, is the tearing or overstretching of a muscle or a tendon (the cord of tissue that joins muscle to bone). Sprains most commonly happen in the ankle, knee, and wrist, whereas strains often involve the lower back or hamstrings.

RELATED: 7 Running Injuries and How to Avoid Them

The symptoms may be similar (pain and swelling), but there are a few telling signs that help ID the type of injury. If it’s a sprain, you may have a hard time moving the joint where the ligament is located, and you may hear or feel a “pop” in the joint when the injury occurs. Those with strains often experience muscle spasms or cramping around the injured area; they may not be able to move the muscle very much. If the injuries are mild, you can typically treat both at home through rest, icing the area, compression and elevation, as well as taking an over-the-counter pain reliever. Physical therapy or surgery may be necessary to rehab more serious injuries.

 

Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.

Exercising But Not Seeing Results? You May Be Doing the Wrong Workout for Your Body

Resolved to rev up your fitness routine in 2017? The secret to producing real results may be ditching your old workout and trying something entirely new.

Experts who study the science of human movement have known for years that not everyone responds to exercise in the same way. In fact, some people are “non-responders,” meaning exercise doesn't give them the same boost in cardiovascular fitness (as measured by heart rate and other key fitness metrics) as other people. Why this occurs isn’t entirely clear, though scientists suspect genetics may play a role.

Now there’s new evidence suggesting that a person's individual response to exercise may depend on the type of workout—and that switching from one routine to another could make all the difference. 

For the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and the University of Ottawa followed 21 healthy women and men as they completed two types of workouts during two separate training periods, with a gap in between that lasted several months.

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Half of the participants did endurance training in the first period, then switched to interval training; the other half did the opposite. All of the participants exercised four times a week through each three-week period. 

The endurance training consisted of 30 minutes of cycling on a stationary bike at a moderate level of exertion (about 65% of maximum heart rate). For the interval training, participants pumped up the intensity of their pedaling by doing eight 20-second sprints, resting 10 seconds between each.

Before the experiment began and after each training period, the researchers tested the participants to assess their heart rate, VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use), and other key measures of cardiovascular fitness. 

They found that both workouts improved the fitness level of the group overall, by about the same amount. But when the researchers looked more closely at the individuals, they found that some people experienced greater improvements after endurance training than interval training; while others gained better results from interval training than endurance training. 

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"What our study shows is that if you’re doing one type of exercise and you’re not getting the optimal result, you can switch to a different stimulus and that may help you,” says co-author Brendon Gurd, PhD, associate professor of muscle physiology at Queens University School of Kinesiology and Health Studies.

This is hopeful news for anyone feeling frustrated at the gym. You may simply be a non-responder to your current workout. But how can you find an ideal routine for your body?

It's really a matter of paying close attention, says Todd Astorino, PhD, a professor of kinesiology at California State University, San Marco, who was not involved in the new study: "The typical exerciser needs to be very aware of how they adapt to the particular regime that they are following. And if they do not feel that they are adapting, they need to change something." That something could be the the type of exercise you do, the length or intensity of your workout, or how often you do it, he says.

RELATED: The Top 20 Fitness Trends for 2017

Prefer to have some hard evidence before you switch gears? Gurd suggests using two tests to gauge your present fitness level.

The first involves walking or running on a treadmill at a set pace for a certain amount of time. "So say you pick 3 miles per hour at an incline of 2, and you jog at that for 10 minutes," he says. Then record your pulse. 

The second test is to measure your speed over a set distance. For example, he says, you could time how long it takes you to run 5 kilometers. 

Once you have these results, carry on with your workout, whatever it may be. After several weeks, perform the two tests again. "If your heart rate at a set speed isn't getting lower, and you're not able to run faster, then those are two pretty easily measured things in a gym that would indicate that you're not responding," he says. At that point, you know it's time to mix up your routine.

How Yoga Can Help You Look Younger Than Your Years

To keep your body looking and feeling its best with each passing year, say "om." Studies have shown that doing yoga is one of the greatest ways to slow the clock. And it's not just because you're helping your muscles remain limber—a regular yoga practice may increase the levels of stay-young hormones that can slow the aging process.

"As you get older, you lose lean muscle mass—as much as 15 percent per decade if you're not active," says Vonda Wright, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and the author of Fitness After 40. But doing yoga plus other strength exercise at least four or five times a week helps slow this loss so that even a 60-something can have as much lean muscle mass as someone 20 years younger, she adds.

Yoga is also especially good at battling the sag that comes as time marches on, notes Janiene Luke, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Loma Linda University in California. "The skin is like a drape for the underlying musculature," she says, "so if those muscles are toned, you'll look firmer and your skin will be less baggy."

Even just a few minutes a day can make a big difference, says Kristin McGee, Health's contributing yoga and wellness editor and a yoga instructor in New York City, who put together a few of her favorite gravity-fighting poses. They're great for you anytime but are particularly key now, as we bounce back from the holidays and set ourselves up for our healthiest year yet.

RELATED: 12 Yoga Poses for People Who Aren't Flexible

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1. Side Crow

This move targets bat wings. Squat with knees and feet together. Twist knees as far to the right as you can; place hands on the floor shoulder-width apart, right hand aligned with left little toe and left hand a few inches farther out. Lean forward and place upper outer left leg on upper right arm; tilt forward to lift legs, balancing them on upper right arm. Lower; repeat on the other side. Too hard? Do regular Crow (watch the video below to learn how).

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RELATED: 14 Yoga Poses for Better Digestion

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2. Goddess Squat

This move targets saddlebags. Stand with feet about 3 feet apart, toes turned out to about 45 degrees. Bring hands together in front of chest in prayer position. Exhaling, bend knees as deeply as possible, keeping them in line with toes. Press palms together while gazing straight ahead.

RELATED: Yoga Poses for Anxiety, Pain, and More

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3. Chair Pose

This move targets a mushy bum. Stand with feet together; inhale and lift arms overhead. Exhale and bend knees, bringing thighs toward the floor while drawing shoulder blades down and reaching arms past ears. Keep lower back long and lift through chest as you lower legs a little more toward the floor, gazing forward and keeping arms parallel. Rise to stand. Do this as a continuous flow, ideally holding each pose for 5 to 8 breaths; repeat the flow 2 or 3 times. Complete the sequence 3 or 4 times a week and in a couple of weeks you'll start to see your parts perking up.

RELATED: How to Fight Cellulite Fast With Yoga

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4. Incline Plank

This move strengthens the backs of your thighs. Sit on the floor with legs extended straight out, feet together, palms at sides a few inches behind you with fingers pointing toward body. Lift hips, pushing through heels and hands, forming a straight line from head to heels. To release, lower hips back down to the floor. To make it harder, lift one leg and point toes.

RELATED: A 10-Minute Yoga Routine to Sculpt Your Body

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5. Chaturanga

This move targets your breasts. Begin in a straight-arm plank with hands directly below shoulders and legs extended straight out behind you. Slowly bend elbows, lowering body until you're hovering a few inches off the floor; keep back flat, elbows close to sides and head in line with body. Push through palms to return to starting plank position.

RELATED: The Best Yoga Routine for Strong Arms

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6. Fish Pose

This move targets a turkey neck. Lie faceup with legs extended, arms at sides, palms down. Press forearms and elbows into the floor, lifting chest and arching upper back slightly. Continue arching back, lifting shoulder blades off the floor; tilt head back so top of head touches the floor. Continue pressing through forearms and out through heels. To release, tuck chin as you lower back to the floor.

RELATED: 5 Yoga Poses You Can Do at Your Desk

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7. Bow Pose

This move targets a rounded back. Lie facedown with legs extended, hands at sides. Bend knees, bringing heels toward glutes; grasp ankles with hands. On an inhale, lift heels while bringing thighs and chest off the floor. Look forward, breathing evenly. To release, exhale and lower thighs and chest to the floor, letting go of feet.

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Why You Don’t Have to Exercise Every Day

This article originally appeared on Time.com.

Exercise is one of the best ways to avoid chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer, as well as an early death. But it can be tough to squeeze into a schedule: Health experts recommend about 150 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous, breath-sapping exercise, each week.

Since daily exercise isn’t realistic for everyone, researchers decided to study whether people who tend to cram their weekly exercise into one or two days on the weekend (so-called “weekend warriors”) get the same benefits as those who exercise daily. In the new research published in JAMA Internal Medicine, they found that how often a person exercises might not make a difference in determining how long a person lives.

Gary O’Donovan, a research associate in the Exercise as Medicine program at Loughborough University in England, and his colleagues analyzed data from national health surveys of more than 63,000 people, conducted in England and Scotland. People who said they exercised only one or two days a week lowered their risk of dying early from any cause by 30% to 34%, compared to people who were inactive. But what was more remarkable was that people who exercised most days of the week lowered their risk by 35%: not very different from those who exercised less.

The findings support the idea that some physical activity—even if it’s less than what the guidelines prescribe—helps avoid premature death. Researchers saw benefits for people who squeezed the entire recommended 150 minutes per week into one or two days, as well as for people who didn’t quite meet that threshold and exercised less.

Exercise was also effective at reducing the risk of heart-related death. The people who exercised regularly and those who exercised a couple days a week both cut their risk by about 40%. Again, the frequency of exercise didn’t seem to matter.

The same was true for risk of death from cancer. Those who exercised—whether it was every day or only a few days—lowered their risk of dying from cancer by 18% to 21%, compared to those who didn’t exercise. This risk reduction was true whether they met the recommended physical activity requirements or not.

“The main point our study makes is that frequency of exercise is not important,” says O’Donovan. “There really doesn’t seem to be any additional advantage to exercising regularly. If that helps people, then I’m happy.”

The results remained significant even after O’Donovan accounted for other variables that could explain the relationship, including a person’s starting BMI. In fact, the benefits were undeniable for people of all weights, including people who were overweight and obese.

That should be heartening to anyone who finds it hard to carve out time for physical activity every day. Not that you can slack off: O’Donovan stresses that his results focus specifically on moderate-to-vigorous exercise people did in their free time, and they do not apply to housework or physical activity on the job, since the surveys didn’t ask about those. The study does, however, include brisk walking, which he says is a good way to start an exercise regimen for people eager to take advantage of the findings.

“This is new evidence, and perhaps guidelines have to be revisited as new evidence emerges,” says O’Donovan. In the meantime, it’s clear that exercise—even if it’s only on the weekends—is a worthwhile addition to your routine.